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Underworld Don Manya Surve: Story of First Encounter by Indian Police

Unveiling the story of Manya Surve: The notorious underworld don and the saga of the first encounter by Indian Police, marking a pivotal moment in criminal history.

You live by the sword, you die by the sword, this adage is true for most gangsters who have often led private power centers and when they get too big for their boots, are subdued or killed by the government. Mumbai has its share of gangsters from Haji Mastan in older times to Dawood and Chota Rajan of present times.

Today we are going to dissect the life of one such dreaded gangster, ‘Manya Surve’ who was also one of the most educated among his brethren. Manya Surve had many firsts to his name including the “first gangster to be killed in a police encounter by Indian Police”.

Police encounters are controversial since most of them are dubbed as faked and the criminals are often killed when they are ready to surrender. The Indian Justice system or as a matter of fact any justice system is based on the adage that no person is guilty until proven in a court of law. The process involves finding evidence and witnesses who often turn hostile due to fear of the criminals.

This led to the incidence of encounter killings which first started in Mumbai against the underworld, was practiced by the Punjab Police when terrorism was at its peak in Punjab under the leadership of K.P.S.Gill, the then Punjab DGP and today it is practiced by law enforcement agencies across the country. 

Manya Surve – Entering the crime world

Manya Murve Real Photo, Image Courtesy: The Lallantop

As already mentioned, Manya Surve was highly educated and not like the majority of gangsters who were from the lower strata of society. His killing was also one of the most infamous and controversial encounters and it led to a spate of such killings in which the Police used deadly force to ensure the criminal is killed.

Surve also became the subject of many films but still very few people know of this “Indian Underworld Don” who was known for his ruthlessness.

Often the state exceeds its power and leads a person to become an outlaw. Something similar happened in the life of Manohar Arjun Surve a.k.a. Manya Sutve who was a young graduate from Kirti College. He majored in Chemistry and scored 78%. It was not a small achievement but fate had ordained something else. Surve was falsely indicted in a murder case and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was lodged in Yerwada jail where he became acquainted with the different actors in the underworld scene. In a few months, his education in crime was complete and his transformation from a simple student to a criminal was too. 

Surve was not a person who could be kept incarcerated and soon he started to plan his escape. He feigned that he was ill and when the jail authorities took him to the hospital he escaped. In a short period, Manya Surve started to create his own gang. At first, he started with petty crimes but soon graduated to the big league and started conducting heists worth lakhs of rupees. Later his paths crossed with Dawood and his gang. The Pathans had long dominated the Mumbai underworld and Surve started his campaign to eliminate them.

Manya Surve Real Photo, Image Courtesy: Mid-Day

As already mentioned Surve was the most educated among the gangsters and in jail he read a famous novel written by James Hadley Chase, Surve hatched a plot using the techniques detailed in the novel to carry out a heist at the Government Milk Scheme center along with his associates. The heist was worth ₹1.26 lakhs. Later, the Police found that every detail was chillingly akin to the James Hadley novel to the word from stealing a car to the method of disposing of it.

Surve did not end there and also started dabbling in narcotics something which the gangsters of the city had not done due to religious and other reasons.

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The activities of the gang became so varied that it finally pushed the Mumbai police to start a campaign to reign in Manya Surve and his gang. The police started a special operation code-named Manya Surve which envisages breaking the back of the organized crime led by him. It started picking up all his associates. The operations started on June 22nd, 1981 when Sheikh Muneer was first picked up and within a few days, all the important members were picked up one by one. Seeing writing on the wall, Manya Surve understood that he was in the line of the fire, so he disappeared and lived low in one of his hideouts. However, he could not match the power of the state which had decided that he should be eliminated. Again his luck ran out when the police tracked his movement and got a tip that he will be visiting his lover. This information was given to Manya Surve by his arch-rival Dawood Ibrahim who had his own axe to grind since Surve had caused immense harm.

The Crime Branch laid a trap and split into three groups under the leadership of The Mumbai Police Assistant Commissioner Isaque Bagwan. After an agonizing wait when the team started to believe that it was a false lead, Surve was spotted exiting a Taxi. The team closed in and Surve became aware of the trap. He pulled out his pistol but before he could fire a shot, the police started firing and he was killed in a hail of bullets. 

It was the first police encounter and the practice was soon followed by numerous police forces in many states. The encounter phenomenon is said to be the response to a weak judicial system which is archaic and often takes years to deliver justice. 

Manya Surve in Movies

Manya Surve in Movies
Image Courtesy: Daily Mail

In Pop Culture, Manya Surve was regarded as a Robinhood who often helped the poor. However, it is not clear if this is true. Many Bollywood films were produced and the first one was ‘Agneepath’ when Amitabh’s character was loosely based upon Manya Surve’s character. A few years later the film was remade with John Abraham’s ‘Shootout At Wadala’ portraying the role of the gangster. 

Manoj Nair

Manoj Nair: With a decade of news writing across various media platforms, Manoj is a seasoned professional. His dual role as an English teacher underscores his command over communication. He adeptly covers Politics, Technology, Crypto, and more, reflecting a broad and insightful perspective that engages and informs diverse audiences.

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